TU Delft professors abhor pension fund ABP’s investments

TU Delft professors call on the ABP pension fund to gradually withdraw their pensions from fossil energy. “Bucket loads of our money are going to non-sustainable industries.”

Dozens of university researchers detest the pension fund saying that it is working on becoming sustainable but, in the meantime, it continues to invest in the oil industry. (Photo: Shell)

While TU Delft is gearing up for the energy transition and is attempting to become CO2 neutral by 2030, and many scientists are researching making the world more sustainable, part of TU Delft staff’s pension money is invested in companies and activities that do the opposite. The ABP pension fund has always invested heavily in oil companies.

More than 100 TU Delft professors find this inappropriate and have signed a petition that was sent to the ABP on Monday 8 March. Among their demands is that ABP define ambitious sustainability goals and stop investing in companies that work on fossil energy extraction, contribute to deforestation and score low on human rights.

The petition was put together by Professor of Climate Design & Sustainability Andy van den Dobbelsteen and Professor of Human Motor Augmentation Heike Vallery. The petition was signed by more than 100 TU Delft professors in just a couple of days. The initiators first approached professors, but from now on, any TU Delft staff member can sign the petition.

Van den Dobbelsteen, who is the Coordinator of Sustainability at TU Delft, calls the current situation ‘unacceptable’. “While government employees work really hard, their pension money goes by the bucket load to non-sustainable industries.”

Political pressure needs to be ramped up to bring about change. He hopes that the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands) also takes a stand. He is hopeful as “more and more people are dissatisfied with ABP’s policy.”

‘More and more people are dissatisfied with ABP’s policy.’

People do indeed seem to be fed up with ABP, and not only at TU Delft. Dozens of university researchers detest the pension fund saying that it is working on becoming sustainable, but at shareholders meetings of energy companies, usually votes against resolutions that would force these companies to adopt a more sustainable course of action.

It seems that the University of Maastricht has had enough. A year ago, ABP informed the University that it intended to continue investing in energy companies so that it, as a shareholder, could talk to these companies and move them towards greener choices. In practice, little has come of this.

In February, the University of Maastricht’s Executive Board called on ABP to withdraw from the fossil fuel industry. “We are asking the ABP to design an action plan which would allow it to break its ties with sectors that are connected to fossil fuels as soon as feasible.” The ABP has not yet responded to this call. “We are working on a response,” a press officer told Delta.

TU Delft researchers’ petition thus comes on top of quite a commotion about ABP’s investments. Wageningen University and Research’s (WUR) professors and staff have also voiced (in Dutch) their concerns. They want WUR’s Board to demand ABP to stop investing in large Brazilian meat companies that cause deforestation and illegal tree felling to make space for soya bean plantations and illegal cattle farms.

And last week, staff and students of the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences also signed an online petition in which they called on the Executive Board and other institutions to publicly speak out against ABP’s investments.

Editor Tomas van Dijk

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